The hardest thing about the meritocracy's tyranny is that they're not necessarily doing it on purpose. It's just a convenient shorthand for a group of people who are really busy.(yap yap)
The Ivy League is full of smart, interesting people. But it is not full of all of the smart, interesting people in the country, or even a majority of them. And given the resumes required to get there, it produces a group of people who are narrow in certain predictible [sic] ways. (I include myself in this: just because I can see it operating doesn't mean I can escape it.)
The problem is that actually seeking out a wide variety of graduates would be much more expensive and time consuming. Why spend the effort searching for "best" when you can easily access "very, very good"?After years of telling us that CEOs are irreplaceable, the Best and Brightest, it seems they are now the Good Enough. McArdle says that the elite merely are saving time by hiring only from the Ivy League, which their money has stuffed with their own progeny and the children of the fellow elite. Naturally when their children graduate the elite will give them a good job, which is no less than they merit in our meritocratic times.
It would be nice if Megan McArdle read her own magazine; namely, 68% of the Sons of the 1% Work at Their Dad's Company by Dino Grandoni. The more elite a graduate is, the greater the chance that he will get his job from his father.
Nepotism and wealth go together according to a study published in the Journal of Labor Economics. The researchers found that 68 percent of the sons of top-percentile income earners have at some point by the time they're age 33 taken a job at a firm their father also worked. That's significantly higher than the 55 percent rate for the sons of the second-highest percentile of earners and the 40 percent average for all income levels. Though the data was limited to Canadian males, the researchers were able to point to several factors that could be at play, some nepotistic and some not. While high earners tend to be self-employed or at least tend to hold sway over hiring decisions at their companies, the pattern could also involve "the formation of values and preferences" -- basically, that fathers tend to raise kids who would fit into their companies well. Whichever hypotheses turn out to be the most important, one of the study's authors, Miles Corak of the University of Ottawa, thinks it proves that something other than meritocracy is at work. He writes on his blog:
If the members of the top 1 percent are there because of connections or political power—rather than by the force of their talent, energy, and motivation—then we should be rightly critical about claims that they merit their fortunes, and question the contribution they make to economic productivity.
While she will be one of the first to support such income inequality, McArdle does manage to have just the tiniest bit of sympathy for the little people if she knows one personally.
Forget about the effects on society, though; this is terrible for organizations. You see this in Washington all the time--a friend who went to a lesser-known state school said he could always tell the people he wasn't going to like when he met them at cocktail parties, because the minute he told them where he'd gone to school, they became extremely interested in going to get another drink or find the cheese dip. This is one of the smartest, most consistently interesting and original, most talented writers I know. Having actually attended one of those elite schools that apparently make you fascinating, I can attest firsthand that statistically, the elitists were vanishingly unlikely to be as interesting as the person they abandoned because he'd gone to a state college.
McArdle has related this anecdote before. One wonders who is this extraordinarily talented young person, whom McArdle is so passionate in defending while supporting his detractors. Sorry, anonymous person. You just didn't make the cut because your parents couldn't get you into the Ivy League, and someone who knows you and cares about you shrugs her shoulders at the injustice and snobbery. Not all of us have enough merit to rise to the top.
Maybe this extremely talented young man will find a job with a billionaire who needs great writers to support his deregulation plans. Re-reading your favorite passages of Atlas Shrugged will only cheer you up so many times before you need to find someone who will give you what you deserve.